A BeeFree Guide to Leave No Trace
With more and more people realizing the beauty and freedom that the outdoors provide, ensuring that you leave no trace is becoming more important than ever before. The Leave No Trace(https://lnt.org/) initiative protects the outdoors by teaching people young and old the responsibilities they have while enjoying our lands. Their vision is that every person who ventures outside puts the Leave No Trace practices into action. This article will assist you in taking the proper steps to ensure the beauty of our lands are not affected by human traffic.
Knowing the regulations and certain concerns for the area you are visiting is vital. We’ve camped at parks that had burn bans in effect but yet our neighbors didn’t seem to get the notice, or care. Don’t be scared to inform fellow campers. Burn bans are in effect for a reason.
Research weather, hazards, and traffic of the trails you’ll be on prior to leaving. If you can avoid the times of high-traffic on trails, do it. No one wants a traffic jam, and the risk of people having to step off the trail are increased. As a result the surrounding plants and other vegetation could be affected.
Bringing the proper weather gear will make your trip more enjoyable and can even be a factor in your safety. If you’re planning a winter trip in the outdoors, read my post on tips for on staying warm.
Download, buy, or borrow (which ever method best suits you) a map of the area you will be hiking. Not only is getting lost on the trail nerve-racking, but the damage you can do to the plants and wildlife by straying off the trails are noticeable. Knowing your surrounding area will eliminate the use of marking paint or flagging the trail.
Dispose/Store Food Properly
If you pack it in, pack it out. Leaving food wrappers, toilet paper, or any other “evidence of you being there” can create pollution, diseases, and other unenjoyable results. It can also be harmful to the wildlife near you. We always bring a trash bag with us on our adventures for a centralized place to keep all our trash. We drop it at the next trailhead dumpster or keep it till we are back in civilization to dispose of properly.
Store all food and scented products in a designated bag for hanging. This is mostly for the safety of wildlife..and also vital for a good night’s sleep. The bag needs to be hung at least 20 feet and 3-4 feet away from the tree. I can’t stress that enough. On one of our backpacking trips we attempted a 10 foot branch but was rudely awakened by a hungry raccoon. Our second attempt was probably 15 feet (keyword: attempt), and it wasn’t until we found a branch 20 feet high and thin enough that Mr. Raccoon could balance that we had soundless sleep. Learn from our mistake. Don’t do what we did.
Along with food waste, human waste needs to be discussed as well. Read our article on how to go to the bathroom in the woods for more info on how to properly dispose of human waste in the outdoors.
Leave No Trace Fires
Camp fires are relied on for their warmth and light, especially for those bitterly cold winter camping trips. Make sure you are educated on the Leave No Trace protocol before you decide to build that fire.
If you’re camping in the backcountry, pick a site that has plenty of wood. Only choose the dead or loose downed wood, do not cut live trees to pieces for a wood source. Keep in mind, downed trees can be shelter for birds and other animals so try to avoid using it as your fire wood and use the surrounding sticks and loose wood first. We recommend you use the Bahco Foldable Saw for cutting those dead or downed limbs.
Use existing fire rings for your camp fire. If a fire ring isn’t already visible, build a mound fire or the fire pan method. Read this article (https://lnt.org/learn/principle-5) for more information on those two methods.
When extinguishing your camp fire the best method is to let it die out naturally by spreading the embers. In most circumstances you’re ready for bed before the camp fire has gone out. In that case, burn wood to a white ash and pour buckets of water over it until it’s completely out. Keep in mind if you’re camping near water or a river, you may need to pack out the ashes.
#1 RULE: NEVER LEAVE A FIRE UNATTENDED.
Stay on Marked Trails
“Take only pictures, leave only footprints” is what comes to mind while I write this section. Staying on marked trails is highly recommended. Creating new trails or switchbacks can quickly result in a beaten path, destroying the vegetation along with it and can cause premature erosion. Taking a beaten path sounds fun, but you have to consider the safety factors that it includes..not just for nature’s sake, but your own safety. Getting lost in the open forest is very easy. Use caution and make sure you have a good compass or GPS to help find your way.
If your trip does include off the trail travel, pay attention to the durability of your surface. Try to avoid the path if it is wet or full of vegetation. Keep your traffic to rocky, sandy or gravel services. Splitting bigger groups into smaller ones will tremendously reduce impacts on off trail hiking.
Leave What You Find
You will discover marvelous things while traversing through nature, but what you find on trail, must stay on the trail. I know that flower or rock would look awesome on your table, but your ultimately disturbing nature. That flower could be a bees food source, that rock could be an insects shelter. Instead, take a picture, print it out, and put that on your table; this way everyone wins.
When in the backcountry and picking your tent spot, try and find a spot with low traffic. Tent pitching is perhaps the most important factor in leaving no trace. Tent footprints can ruin vegetation and leave an imprint in soft moist surfaces. To prevent the potential for permanent damage, try to pick a spot that has not been used before.
When packing up your tent, you should attempt to naturalize the spot. Replace rocks that were removed and cover the ground with leafs and pine needles, this will make it less likely for other hikers to sleep in the same spot.
Respect Wildlife and Insects
When preparing for a backpacking adventure it is wise to research the local wildlife that you may encounter. Knowing what predators exist, if any, could save your life. Furthermore, you can always stop by the Park Rangers office and they will be more than happy to answer any questions you might have.
Quiet observation is key. Loud noises and sudden movements can be stressful for wild animals. I know your picture would be just perfect if you got a couple feet closer, but respect the animals and their space. Zoom exists for a reason. Remember, this is their home.
“I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright.”
Henry David Thoreau
Picking Your Campsite
Sleeping a decent distance from water is a good way to lower the chances of disturbances from wildlife and also cuts down on the amount of bugs. It’s not surprising that animals are naturally drawn to water. When you set up camp to close to a precious water source you run the risk of scaring the wild animals away. If you do decide to sleep close to the water, try to make sure everything is stored properly…and prepare for some weird noises and bumps in the night.
Now that we have touched on how important it is to respect the wildlife you encounter, I’d like to take the time now stress how crucial it is to respect fellow hikers also. Many nature lovers go into nature for solidarity and peace. Try to limit noise pollution as much as possible and use headphones if you really want to jam out. Whenever it is time to rest, try to take your breaks on a hard, durable, ground off the trail, such as a big rock or other solid surface. This will help minimize destruction of the vegetation.
Now’s The Time
With millions fleeting for an escape into the wilderness, following the Leave No Trace guidelines has become an essential part of preserving our beautiful public lands. Although it can be tempting at times to veer off course, adhering to these methods will limit the impact on the environment, leaving behind the beauty for generations to enjoy.
Comment below if you have any other tips on ensuring a No Trace Trip!
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